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Cancer survivor shows her scars in calendar


November 13, 2013
Emily Mazzetti has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Growing up riding off-road bikes in Valley Center, Mazzetti has made extreme adventures like skydiving a central part of her life.

"I'm a bit of an action sports junkie," said Mazzetti. "Pretty much anything off-road is a passion of mine."

However, there was one obstacle Mazzetti didn't see coming. In January 2011 Mazzetti was diagnosed with Stage II Rectal Cancer. Although she had been having symptoms for about six months, her anxieties delayed her going in for a check-up.

"I was kind of in denial because I didn't really want to go to the doctor," she said. Only 36 years old at the time of her diagnosis, Mazzetti didn't drink or smoke and was otherwise in good health. Like many young people, she shared the misconception that colorectal cancer only affects much older people.

"It's something that wasn't even on my radar," she said.

Thankfully, after six months of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, Mazzetti is 100 percent free of cancer. Now she is working to raise awareness about colorectal cancer by modeling for the Colondar, a calendar created by the Colon Club to educate people on the facts and symptoms of colorectal cancer.

Each month in the Colondar features a different colorectal cancer survivor who was diagnosed under the age of 50. The models proudly bear their surgery scars, as well as share stories of resilience and hope. Ranging in diagnosis age from 23 to 47, all 12 models were motivated to share the experiences to raise awareness about the disease. According to the National Institute of Health, 10 percent of colorectal cancer cases occur in those under age 50.

"When I was diagnosed with rectal cancer and going through my treatment, I had gone online and found the Colon Club website," said Mazzetti. She learned about the Colondar by scanning the message boards, and, after recovering from her treatment, she wanted to get involved in helping other people in similar situations.

For the photo shoot, the Colon Club brought everyone to a residence in upstate New York near Lake George where they were also able to connect and share their stories.

"It's helpful as a young cancer survivor to be with eleven other people who've been through what you've been through," said Mazzetti. Not only did her fellow survivors share her surprise at getting diagnosed so young, but several even shared stories of doctors brushing them aside or misdiagnosing them. One of the calendar's main goals is to demonstrate that anyone at any age is at risk for colorectal cancer.

As the Colondar shows, many survivors are left with sizeable scars on their abdomen. However, Mazzetti was fortunate enough to be operated on by a new robot technology that left her with minimal scarring. "I feel very fortunate compared to some of the other models," she said.

The operating technology, called daVinci Surgery, allowed the surgeon a 3D view for Mazzetti's surgery and managed to leave only a few small scars. DaVinci Surgery also sponsored Mazzetti's page in the Colondar: May 2014.

Nonetheless, Mazzetti was still a little self-conscious about showing her scars in a calendar that would be widely-seen, but she knew it was the right thing to do.

"I had to put my fears aside and share my story," she said. "It's for a good cause."

The Colondar can be purchased for $10 at www.colondar.com, and the proceeds go toward other awareness programs and next year's calendar. Mazzetti and another Colondar model also will be holding an event at BJ's in Escondido on Nov. 16 where they will be signing and selling calendars.

Mazzetti now lives in Mission Viejo, but she still returns to Valley Center regularly to visit her parents. True to her adventuresome spirit, she is working for Kawasaki Motors and enjoying the high-octane lifestyle. However, she will continue to work to raise awareness about cancer and common misconceptions.

"Go to the doctor, it may be nothing, but definitely listen to your body," advised Mazzetti. If colorectal cancer is discovered early enough, there is a good chance of treating it and leading a healthy life. "This disease is definitely treatable and definitely beatable," said Mazzetti.

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